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The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene (Popular Science) Revised Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 94 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0192880512
ISBN-10: 0192880519
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Editorial Reviews

Review

The Extended Phenotype is a sequel to The Selfish Gene ... he writes so clearly it could be understood by anyone prepared to make the effort John Maynard Smith, LRB This entertaining and thought-provoking book is an excellent illustration of why the study of evolution is in such an exciting ferment these days. Science

About the Author


Richard Dawkins is the first holder of Oxford's newly endowed Charles Simonyi Professorship of Public Understanding of Science. Born in Nairobi of British parents, Richard Dawkins was educated at Oxford and did his doctorate under the Nobel-prizewinning ethologist Niko Tinbergen. From 196769 he was an Assistant Professor at the University of California at Berkeley, then he returned to Oxford as University Lecturer (later Reader) and a Fellow of New College, before taking up his present position in 1995.

Richard Dawkins's bestselling books have played a significant role in the renaissance of science book publishing for a general audience. The Selfish Gene (1976; second edition 1989) was followed by The Extended Phenotype (1982), The Blind Watchmaker (1986), River Out of Eden (1995), Climbing Mount Improbable (1996), and Unweaving the Rainbow (1998). He has won many literary and scientific awards.
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Product Details

  • Series: Popular Science
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Revised edition (August 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192880519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192880512
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.8 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #140,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on March 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
Biodiversity is more than a buzzword for ecologists. Variation gives life its grandeur, and Richard Dawkins gives us a description of the workings of variation. Fortunately, with a sharp mind and sharper wit, he has the ability to deliver this portrayal so that nearly everyone can understand it. That's not to say this book is an easy read. Although he delivers his narration as if sitting with you in a quiet study, you may still need to review his words more than once. That's not a challenge or a chore, it's a pleasure.
Dawkins, unlike other science writers, is forthright in declaring his advocacy in writing this book. It's a refreshing start to his most serious effort. After publication of The Selfish Gene led to a storm of fatuous criticism, Extended Phenotype comes in response with more detail of how the gene manifests itself in the organism and its environment. It's clear that Dawkins' critics, who label him an "Ultra-Darwinist" [whatever that is] haven't read this book. His critics frequently argue that The Selfish Gene doesn't operate in a vacuum, but must deal within some kind of environment, from an individual cell to global scenarios. Dawkins deftly responds to critics in describing how genes rely on their environment for successful replication. If the replication doesn't survive in the environment it finds itself, then it, and perhaps its species, will die out.
The child's favourite question, "why" is difficult enough for parents and teachers to answer. Yet, as thinking humans we've become trained to deal with that question nearly every context. So well drilled that we consider something for which that question has no answer to be suspicious if not insidious.
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Format: Paperback
Richard Dawkins is one of the most interesting popular science writers working today, and usually his books are filled with insight and perception about evolution (and other topics), written in clear and effective prose. This book is different from most of Dawkins's books, as it targets biologists rather than laypeople, and so it is a much more frustrating and difficult reading for such readers.
Frankly, if you are, like me, a lay person, don't read this book before reading other books by Dawkins, most notably The Selfish Gene, but also other stuff by him. I doubt I would have understood this book had it been my introduction to Dawkins's ideas. The glossary, though helpful, is far from complete and rarely detailed enough.
But for all this, The Extended Phenotype is richer in observations and ideas then any other book by Dawkins I have ever read. Dawkins says this is his best book, and you can see that he has a point.
The book has three main themes. The first is discussion of left over issues from The Selfish Gene, answering criticism and elaborating on the ideas in that book. The second is clarifying some issues in discussion of evolution, such as replicators and vehicles, fitness, etc. The third one, and the one for which Dawkins is most proud is his 'Extended Phenotype' - the concept that genes operate on the enviornment, and that the body (the individual organism) is a link in the chain of orders passing from DNA to the external phenotype - beaver dams or host behaviour that helps the parasite, or any other activity that helps the genes.
Frankly, the concept of the extended phenotype is best explained in the chapter about 'The Long reach of the gene' in the new (1989) edition of 'The Selfish Gene'.
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Format: Paperback
One of the reviewers here claims that Dawkins doesn't get that evolution doesn't see individual genes, but only individual organisms. This person isn't getting Dawkins!! Dawkins is saying individuals are a products of complex genetic interplay and that the influence of genes (singly or in groups) can extend outside the individual. The individual-centric viewpoint is only a viewpoint.
In fact individuals are NOT selected by natural selection (all humans that have ever lived so far have eventually died!) GENES are selected -- albeit in groups since they reside together in an individual (this is their mini-environment)--though not permanently since recombination ensures genes will be shuffled regularly into new, though similar, micro-environments. My grandfathers genes live on -- though my grandfather is dead. Dawkins is repsenting a different viewpoint on GENETIC selection as he explains in the preface of the book. And it is a brilliant viewpoint. Genes have an influence on the world, that includes both the characterisitics and behaviors of individual organisms in which they reside as well as the behavior of organisms and artiftacts outside that individual. Really one of the great books in evolution.
Let me put it another way--Is a physicits wrong when he claims the desk I sit at is mostly empty space? Sure looks solid to me, I say. But at the micro-level the desk is indeed mostly empty space and if neurtrinos could talk they would surely attest to this fact. One has to open one's mind to see that Dawkin's gene-centric perspective is as valid as the old-fasioned model and indeed leads to new insights and illuminations. That's thw whole point of him presenting this view after all!!! Isn't that waht good theory is supposed to do?
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